In the heart of Canada’s Rocky Mountain Chain you’ll find the country’s largest national park: Jasper.

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With jagged mountain peaks, towering glaciers, flourishing lakes, cascading waterfalls and seemingly endless canyons—the sheer size of Jasper will shock even the most experienced outdoor explorer. The park itself is more than 11,000 square kilometres, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1984.

You can opt to combine a trip to Jasper with nearby Banff and Lake Louise for the ultimate activity package—hiking, canoeing, bicycling, white water rafting, and more in summer or snaking down world class ski trails, exploring the backcountry and unwinding in the Miette Hot Springs in winter. We’re hope you’re rested—the list of things to do in Jasper is extensive.

Jasper National Park is located 370.0km west of Edmonton, 404.0km northwest of Calgary and 805.0km northeast of Vancouver. You can reach the town of Jasper from the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93), which travels through the Canadian Rockies north to south. The other major road is Route 16, which cuts through Jasper National Park and Jasper town site east to west.

Here we’ll take you through the basic overview of hiking in Jasper National Park—including how to get there, where to stay, where to eat, what to see and what to watch out for.

Sunwapta Falls
Sunwapta Falls
WHICH AIRPORT TO FLY INTO TO GET TO JASPER

To reach Jasper via airplane there are two options. The closest is Edmonton International Airport (YEG). We prefer to fly in via Calgary International Airport (YYC). Flying into Calgary allows you a stunning drive past Banff, Lake Louise and then up one of the most incredible roads on earth, the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93N).

Both airports serve regional and international airlines on a daily basis, are located within a 2–4 hour drive from Jasper and offer rental car services.

WHEN TO GO TO JASPER

Jasper is accessible all year round, categorized by short summers and long winters. The weather changes vastly across the park due to the mountainous terrain that creates a variety of microclimates. Elevation, latitude, prevailing winds, shading from the mountains and wind from the glaciers are all factors in the daily area’s climate. Altitude, for example, has a significant impact. In Jasper you can expect a decrease in temperature of 1.7 degrees Celsius for each 300m gained.

Warmer spring weather reaches the valley in mid-April and the higher elevation in mid-June. During this time you can enjoy warm days – albeit with varied temperatures. The flowers are also in bloom and the crowds decreased. The crowds come in as summer approaches, and the sun begins to heat the landscape to a balmy daily maximum of 22.5 degrees Celsius. Summer, especially July, is the most popular time to visit Jasper. During this time the days are long, but as a whole the summer season is relatively short. As September approaches the leaves will begin to change colours, and although the sky is typically clear during the fall, temperatures begin to cool significantly by October and November. The long winter can be volatile and unforgiving in Jasper. Cold storms are frequent, but this also brings the winter sports enthusiasts to the area. January is the coldest month, where the temperature rarely comes above 9 degree Celsius.

Average monthly temperature and precipitation:

Average monthly temperature and precipitation table
Average monthly temperature and precipitation table
HOW TO GET AROUND IN JASPER

There aren’t many options for public transportation in Jasper. If you’re planning on covering a lot of area you really need an automobile to get around.   If that’s not possible there are a few shuttle buses are available to transport visitors between towns – i.e. from Jasper to Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise – such as the Bike ‘n’ Hike Shuttle,  Roam bus and  Sundog.

WHERE TO STAY IN JASPER

Despite being home to only 5,000 year-round residents, Jasper town and the surrounding national park boast a vast amount of lodging options to accommodate the more than a million visitors that visit the area each year. If you’re looking for luxury, you can find it in Jasper. For a budget-friendly dorm-room bunk? Yep, you can get that too.

The most exclusive accommodation is the 700-acre Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Nestled deep into Jasper National Park, this hotel it surrounded by unforgettable scenes of the Canadian Rockies. In addition to being well-located to a number of activities in the area, it’s also home to the Fairmont Spa—the perfect place to unwind after a long day of exploring. While it is historic, we feel it isn’t up to the normal Fairmont standard of luxury.

Road Bridge in Jasper National Park
Road Bridge in Jasper National Park
Jasper town
Jasper town

Just next to the shimmering Athabasca River within Jasper National Park is the Alpine Village. This award winning accommodation is spread across a stunning natural pine forest just 2.0km south of Jasper town. Although it’s only open from May to October, with panoramic views of the river and the Mount Edith Cavell providing an unforgettable backdrop, a stay at the Alpine Village is definitely recommended!

For families we recommend the Overlander Mountain Lodge. Located on the edge of Jasper National Park, this hotel offers guests a variety of room choices—from single suites to chalets that can accommodate up to 8 people. Another option for large groups is the Pocahontas Cabins. Located just outside of the park, guests can choose from a variety of individual cabins for a truly authentic mountain retreat.

Just five blocks from the centre of Jasper town you’ll find the highly recommended Mount Robson Inn. With comfortable rooms, included continental breakfast, year round hot tubs and number of amenities, this option is a greatly value just minutes from Jasper National Park.

Heritage building of tourist information center in Jasper
Heritage building of tourist information center in Jasper

For a taste of history, check in at the Athabasca Hotel. This contemporary hotel has been around since 1929, and offers visitors a variety of additions services such as complimentary passes to the Jasper Activity and Aquatic Centre. With vintage-style décor, an unbeatable location and warm hospitality, you can be sure to enjoy your stay here.

Jasper National Park also boasts over 1700 campsites, giving you the opportunity to really get down and dirty with the stunning natural surroundings. Many of the sites are open year round, able to accommodate anything from a small one-person tent to a large motorhome. At each campground, firewood is provided with the purchase of a fire permit and bear-proof lockers are available for storage. In addition, log cookhouses are available for bad weather. Reservations are available for some campsites, while all other are on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you plan to arrive during peak months (June through September) make sure to come early.

For more information on campsites in Jasper, please visit the Parks Canada website here.

Medicine Lake
Medicine Lake
WHERE TO EAT IN JASPER

One of the top-rated restaurants in Jasper is the Raven Bistro. Founded by Jasper locals, they serve up a fusion of Moroccan and local-style dishes such as Coconut Kaffir Lime Seafood Pot or a grilled Moroccan trio – Beef with harissa, chicken with mint cilantro sauce & lamb cevapcici with lemon-tahini yogurt on a bed of jewelled Israeli couscous. Yum!

Another great choice for a nice dinner out is Syrahs of Jasper. Newly renovated, they have a good selection of craft beers, international wines and feature cuisine based on regional Canadian Rocky Mountain theme such as wild game and Canadian seafood.

For something a bit more casual, check out the Famoso Neopolitan Pizzeria. They prepare pizza the authentic Naples way – even receiving training from the prestigious Associanzione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN). Famoso offers fire bread sandwiches, appetizers, pastas, salads and, of course, a variety of delicious pizzas – from the classic margherita to new world recipes such as spicy thai and honey BBQ chicken.

Bull elk during the rut season
Bull elk during the rut season

For a bit of comfort food, chow down on the indulgent fare from Evil Dave’s. They offer a mix of regionally inspired dishes combined with international ingredients – all with creative (evil-themed) names like the Malevolent Meatloaf or Hell’s Chicken. And if you’re looking for some seriously refreshing beer, check out Jasper Brew Pub and Eatery for a cold one brewed on-site and upscale comfort foods.

To grab a tasty sandwich to go, check out Patricia Street Deli. They have a great selection of ingredients to make a freshly made sandwich – perfect to take with you on a long hike. In terms of breakfast, bakeries and coffee, Jasper also doesn’t disappoint. Coco’s Cafe has a great breakfast and lunch menu (also available to go), focusing of vegetarian, vegan, locally sourced and organic ingredients – though they’ve got options for meat lovers too! Bear Paw Bakery is the place to go rolls, pastries and more – fresh out of the oven of course.

Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO BESIDES HIKING IN JASPER?

Jasper is truly a year-round destination – with a huge variety of activities to keep you busy no matter what the weather. With so many sights to see – from the Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake, to the Athabasca Glacier and Falls and the Mount Edith Cavell Trail – hiking here is exceptional. But what can you do when your feet get tired or you need a change of scenery?

In winter, skiing and boarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling, ice climbing, embarking on a sleigh ride or a dog sled tour are all definite possibilities. Jasper is home to Marmot Basin, famous for the highest base elevation for all of Canada’s ski areas.

If you’re heading there in the warmer months, don’t worry – there’s even more to do! For more outdoor exploring, test your athletic prowess with a bit of rock climbing. Maligne Adventures and Rockaboo Mountain Adventures both offer guided climbing tours in Jasper. You can also opt to set off on a bike ride – with hundreds of kilometers of mountain bike trails, this is one of the best ways to explore the area.

Lake Edith
Lake Edith

Head to water for some exciting white water rafting with tour companies such as Jasper Rafting or Wild Current Outfitters. Or maybe go a little deeper with a dive into the pristine Patricia Lake with Jasper Dive Adventures.

For something a bit more relaxing, check out the award-winning golf course run by the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club or perhaps unwind in the Jasper Wellness center or the Mountain Wellness Day Spa.

A dash of culture can be found at the museums in Jasper, such as the Mountain Galleries aimed at supporting and showcasing local Canadian artists, or the Jasper Yellowhead Museums and Archives, where you can learn about the history of the area through artifacts and documents. And lastly – don’t forget to check out the Jasper Planetarium for a chance to gaze up at the star-laden night sky and the world’s second largest dark sky preserve (an area where almost no artificial lighting is visible at night).

Athabasca River with the Miette range in the distance
Athabasca River with the Miette range in the distance
DANGERS IN THE PARK
  • Never feed or approach wildlife. Always carry bear spray.
  • You must use the food storage cables or lockers provided to suspend or secure all food, garbage, toiletries (e.g. deodorant) and cooking equipment.
  • Even though it may look pristine, make sure you boil, treat or filter all water before drinking it.
  • If bringing pets in the park, always keep them on a lease – they may look appetizing to a predator.
  • Pay attention to avalanche conditions, especially at higher altitudes.
  • Weather can change quickly. Make sure to bring multiple layers.
  • The roads may be very crowded during peak seasons. Pay attention to wildlife, especially at dusk and dawn.
  • Always bring sunglasses, a hat and wear sunscreen – even in winter. The sun at the alpine altitude is very strong.
  • The nights can get very cold – even in summer. Pack a warm sleeping bag.
  • Pay attention to your surrounds, rock and icefall are common occurrences in the park all year long.
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT JASPER
  • To celebrate 150 years of Parks Canada entrance is free to all Parks Canada locations in 2017 – that includes Jasper National Park!
  • Campfires are only allowed on campgrounds with provided fireboxes. On all other campsites a backpacking stove is required.
  • Law protects all rocks, fossils, horns, antlers, wildflowers, mushrooms, nests and any other natural or historic object within the park. Leave them in their nature setting.
  • Make sure you bring bug spray – especially for long hiking trips.